I stopped live-blogging the Senate Judiciary Committee testimony of Alberto Gonzales at the lunch break, and at that time Gonzales appeared to be struggling to explain himself even to the Republicans on the panel. Apparently it got no better for the Attorney General after the committee came back into session. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wondered why Gonzales's story kept changing, and Tom Coburn (R-OK) bluntly told him to quit:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confronted a fresh call for his resignation from a fellow Republican Thursday as he struggled to survive a bipartisan Senate challenge to his credibility in the case of eight fired prosecutors.
"The best way to put this behind us is your resignation," Sen. Tom Coburn bluntly told Gonzales, one GOP conservative to another.
Gonzales disagreed and told the Oklahoma senator he didn't know that his departure would put the controversy to rest. ...
After a long morning in the witness chair, he returned to face fresh Republican challenges to his credibility. "Why is your story changing?" asked Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, noting that the attorney general was now accepting responsibility for the firings after initially saying he had played only a minor role.
The Democrats hammered Gonzales, but that wasn't the story. Democrats won't decide Gonzales' fate. Senate Republicans will make the determination whether he has enough credibility to survive on Capitol Hill. The early reviews are less than promising.
My good friend Paul at Power Line is sticking by Gonzo, although not enthusiastically:
Alberto Gonzales isn't exactly winning rave reviews on our Forum or, it seems, around the conservative blogosphere generally. However, the main concession his interrogators seem to have gained so far is that Gonzales approved the termination recommendations with little or no scrutiny.
Now, President Bush might well want a more hands on Attorney General, and I certainly would. But unless the decisions made by staff and approved by Gonzales were poor or corrupt ones, I don't think his deference to staff requires his resignation or termination. I've seen no account in which the Senators have made much headway in terms of showing that particular decisions were poor or corrupt.
Byron York at National Review considers today "disastrous" for the AG:
It has been a disastrous morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The major problem with his testimony is that Gonzales maintains, in essence, that he doesn’t know why he fired at least some of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys. When, under questioning by Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, Gonzales listed the reasons for each firing, it was clear that in a number of cases, he had reconstructed the reason for the dismissal after the fact. He didn’t know why he fired them at the time, other than the action was recommended by senior Justice Department staff.
That doesn't mean the Justice staff fired the prosecutors for improper reasons, but it does say something about Gonzales' competence. And even with hindsight, he still couldn't come up with a good reason for two of the seven.
What does all of this mean? It means that Gonzales is toast. One can write off Senators like Specter and Graham, but Tom Coburn is part of the conservative backbone in the Senate. That is a clear message to the White House to start placing ads in the paper for the upcoming opening in senior management.
I'll add more links as I see them.